Thursday, December 11, 2014

Wednesday Devotional: Psalm 119.57-64 (Stanza ח)


    Spend some time praising God for His faithfulness. Confess your failures in faithfulness and receive His forgiveness. Ask for insight into His Word. All in Jesus' Name.

    Abba Father, You are so awesome and holy! You are in control of all and are to be glorified in all! There is no other God, Holy Triune Father! You are always so good to me. You are good to me even when I am so faulty in my own faithfulness to You. I should exalt You and trust You in all and for all and with all, but so often I fail. Forgive me, not because I am worthy, but because I trust in Your Son's death and resurrection for me! Fill me now with Your Spirit so that I can truly understand and apply Your Word! Enrich me with a greater knowledge of You! In Jesus' name, Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 119.57-64 (Stanza ח)
57   "Yahweh is My Portion" I say [to myself]
       in order to keep Your words!
58   I've begged You with all my heart!
       Be gracious to me according to Your promise!
59   I've thought long and hard about my ways,
       so I'll definitely return my feet to Your requirements!
60   I hurried and I didn't wait
       to obey Your commands!
61   The ropes of wicked people surround me!
       I don't forget Your instruction!
62   In the middle of the night I get up to praise You
       for the judgments of Your righteousness!
63   I'm a friend to all those who fear You
       and to the people who obey Your rules!
64   Your loyalty, Yahweh, fills the earth!
       Teach me Your laws!

   Psalm 119.57-64 is the next stanza, with each verse starting with the eighth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, hhet, ח. This section continues the saga of dealing with personal failures and external pressures coming from evil, arrogant people. The prayer/conversation with God continues here. The structure of this stanza seems to be framed by the Name Yahweh, which is the second word of both v.57 and v.64. Within that frame, which in v.57 focuses on the need for the psalmist to be committed to Yahweh and which in v.64 focuses on Yahweh's commitment to the psalmist, the stanza seems to break down into two subsections. The first is vv.57-60, which focuses on the repentance of the psalmist, while the second is vv.61-64, which focuses on the threat faced by the psalmist coming form evil people and the distinction between them and the psalmist.

   All of us at time wonder about how to stay faithful to God, how to make sure that we follow His Word. I am encouraged by v.57 because it gives us a method that we can use to achieve that objective, a method we can be sure was helpful to the psalmist. The method is remembering Who Yahweh is to us, remembering the place that God has/should have in our lives. The author had to remind himself that Yahweh was his portion. This was his way of saying that his God was all he really needed. Yahweh was his wealth. He is all he has. At the end of the day, it is God that makes his life worth living. It is God that has the highest value in his life. It is also a reminder that it is God that I am and always should be committed to. I do not have another God. I only have Yahweh as my God. and what an amazing God He is!
   I am also convicted by the psalmists example of true and committed repentance. He thinks deeply about his ways. Sometimes we can over-analyse our spiritual lives and cause ourselves real spiritual harm. However, it is just as harmful to never think about how we are living our lives. If we never look and see whether we are following Christ faithfully, we can never follow Him more fully. We can't adjust our lives without seeing what needs to change. But when the author did see what needed to be changed he begged for grace from God, recognizing his need of forgiveness and mercy. And perhaps more convictingly for me is that as soon as the psalmist sees what's wrong he doesn't wait to deal with it. He moves to obedience right away, not denial, not avoidance, but repentance and obedience.
   Lastly, I am blessed to see how committed God is to me. He is so faithful and loyal to me and to all those who trust in Christ that the author can say "Your loyalty fills the earth!" Yet, I am to be as committed to Him as He is to me. And so everyone who is on His side, I call a friend and ally. Sometimes we forget that Jesus is our King and that our connection and true allegiance to one another is because we have the same Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the same Spirit of God living within us. But all of that works because Yahweh our God is so faithful.

   I need to remember that Yahweh is my God and that He is everything to me, so that I can more fully live for Him and obey His Word.
   I need to reflect on my life, request forgiveness, and then truly change my lifestyle to conform it to the pattern that Yahweh has given us.
   I need to praise God for His faithfulness as well as remain faithful in my commitment to Him, including my commitment to His people, even if they may be hard to deal with.


Abba, I love You! You are my God! There is no other God but You Yahweh! You are so faithful and forgiving! I love You and I praise You for that! You're awesome! Forgive me of my sin because of Christ, and empower me by Your Holy Spirit to truly and quickly repent. Help me to love Your people! I love You! Be glorified! In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Wednesday Devotional

Sorry, the Wednesday Devotional will be published on Thursday this week. Much love.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Wednesday Devotional: Psalm 119.49-56 (Stanza ז)

Pray and ask God to open your eyes and heart to His Word and to empower you by His Holy Spirit to put it into practice. 

Abba, I love You and thank You for the life that You give! It is awesome that You grace us with life for as long as You do. O Lord, I pray that we would live that life that You give us patterned after Jesus Christ our Savior, Your Son, walking in step with Your Holy Spirit the whole way, until this life opens up into a grander kind of life as we who truly trust in You cross the threshold of death. Teach us Your Word today, unto that aim. In Jesus' Name, Amen. 

Scripture: Psalm 119.49-56 (Stanza ז)
49   Remember what You said to Your slave
       which You made me hope in.
50   This is my comfort in my affliction, 
       because Your promise makes me live. 
51   Arrogant people mock me like crazy, 
       I don't turn from Your instruction. 
52   I remember Your ancient judgments, Yahweh, 
       and I am comforted.
53   Blistering rage has seized me because of wicked people--
       the people who abandon Your instruction!
54   Your laws are songs to me
       in the house of my immigrant wanderings.
55   I remember in the night Your Name, Yahweh, 
       and I will definitely keep Your instruction.
56   This is mine,
        because I keep Your rules.

   This section of eight verses has each verse start with the Hebrew letter ז, which is the 7th letter in the Hebrew alphabet. The passage continues discussing the troubles the author is experiencing as well as the hope and commitment he has for Yahweh. In terms of the poetic structure of the stanza, v.49 appears to be the heading of the stanza, and sets the overarching perspective of the stanza. However, vv.50-56 form the body of the stanza, framed with v.50 and v.56 which both start with the word "this" with a first half that talks about something that belongs to the author and have a second half that begins with "because." v.51 and v.55 both have a second line that talk about the author not turning from Yahweh's instruction, while v.52 and 54 talk about the positive emotions that God's judgments and laws give to the psalms. This makes v.53 the focal point of the section. Thus, the passage has a heading in v.49 and a chiastic structure in vv.50-56. 
Heading: God You be faithful, because I'm hoping in You
Body: I'm being faithful to You God (don't forget to be faithful to me)
   A    What belongs to the Psalmist
      B    The Psalmist will not turn from Yahweh's instruction
         C   The Psalmist feels good because of what God has said
            D   The Psalmist gets angry at wicked people
         C'  The Palmist feels good because of what God has said
      B'   The Palmist will not turn from Yahweh's instruciton
   A'   What belongs to the Psalmist

   Looking at the stanza as a whole, I am struck by the psalmist faith in God, the hope God has given him in God. Yet, the psalmist can be honest and admit that He is dependent on God to come through for Him. The psalmist talks about how committed he is to God, and how He remembers Yahweh, what He has said as well as Who He is. He has this close and faith-filled relationship with Yahweh. And while it may seem in some sense inappropriate to phrase it like this, basically the psalmist seems to be telling God that he needs God to be faithful to him as much as he has been faithful to God. He is saying, "Hey, Yahweh, we have this relationship. I'm trusting in You--You're the One that made me hope in You in the first place--and I want You to be faithful to the commitment You made to me!" Obviously, on some level, we don't need to ever worry about whether God will come through for us, but clearly this guy feels comfortable telling God that it feels like even though he is holding up his side of the relationship, God doesn't seem to be active in His part yet. A lot of Christians talk about God as if we should not presume to have expectations of Him, but I think that from this passage we can agree that at some level we need to be honest with God about those expectations. It is true: some of our expectations are ridiculous. But the author just seems to want relief and justice and know that God cares and is being faithful. 
   Anger towards wicked people is something that often we as Christians--or sometimes even if you're not a Christian--feel uncomfortable about. We in American culture often view anger as whole as a bad thing. And yet, setting aside for a moment the question of rightness or wrongness of anger, we do need to be honest with God about the anger we have and the causes of that anger. Anger, I think, actually can be something that is good and holy. Righteous indignation is a good thing. People who perpetrate evil against others should make us anger, that people refuse to follow Christ in humility and faith should make us anger. And although we often say "love the sinner, hate the sin" we also have to admit that if there is such a line in everyday life, it is often blurry. When someone hurts us we are not just angry at the evil action but the perpetrator of the action because they are morally culpable. And I think that when framed and governed by the Holy Spirit that is right. We should get angry, but not only angry. Reading from other passages in Scripture does help us to see that this anger must be held in tension with love, patience, humility, and forgiveness. 

   I need to enjoy having a real relationship with God, where I trust Him and expect Him to act. While I certainly don't have a relationship with God because of anything in me or anything that I ever did or will do, I do have a relationship with God. And that relationship with God does mean that I have one role in the relationship and God has another role, which also means that I can and should expect God to fulfill His role as He has promised, which also means I can talk with Him honestly about the times when I feel like I'm waiting for Him to do His part. 
   While I need to be careful not to be hypocritical or unreasonably or unrighteously angry, I should get angry about evil things. People who sin and refuse to follow and obey God and believe in Christ and live by the Spirit should make me angry. But in this anger, I also need to mix in love, patience, hope, and grace. 


Yahweh, You are my God. You've been my God ever since You made me hope in You at age 4. I thank You that we have a relationship by grace and that because You are my God and I am one of Your people, that I can trust in You to do what You promised me You would do! God, I love you! Get all the glory from my life! Keep me faithful to You as You keep Your promises to be faithful to me! I love You! Fill me with Your Holy Spirit that I may live by Him and know Christ more deeply through Him, in Jesus' Name, Amen!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wednesday Devotional: Psalm 119.41-48 (Stanza ו)

   Pray and ask God for help with what you're going through today and tomorrow. Also ask Him to make you see the riches of this passage and how to apply it to your life.

   Abba, I love You! Yet, I'm not perfect. I sin. Forgive my sin today. Clean out my heart from foolishness. Purify my mind from selfishness. Open my eyes to see You for Who You really are, and Your Word today for what it really says! In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Passage: Psalm 119.41-48 (Stanza ו)
41   And may Your loyalties come to me, Yahweh,
       Your salvation according to Your promise!
42   And I will respond to the person shaming me in word,
       because I trust in Your Word.
43   And don't ever take away the message of truth from my mouth,
       because I wait for Your judgments.
44   And I will definitely obey Your instruction completely,
       for ever and ever
45   And I will definitely walk around in a wide area,
       because I pursue Your rules!
46   And I will definitely speak about Your statements before kings
       and I won't be ashamed.
47   And I will delight in Your commands,
       which I love!
48   And I will lift my hands to Your commands, which I love,
       and I will definitely study Your on laws!

   All the verses in this stanza begin with the word "and" in English, because the word for "and" in Hebrew is וְ, which is the only word in Hebrew that begins with the 6th letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the waw ו (pronounced vav).
   The structure of the stanza is more complicated. However, what is clear is that the last two verses of the stanza, vv.47-48, form some sort of conclusion section, because they are structured as a chiasm, which is a kind of poetic structuring device, where half of the statements mirror the other half of the statements. Sometimes, like here, the mirror has a focal point.
        A           I will delight in Your commands
             B         which I love
                  C        I will lift my hands to Your commands
             B'        which I love
        A'          I will definitely delight in Your laws
   The rest of the verses may form another chiasm, but is not as sure. The focal point of that chiasm would likely be "because I put my hope in Your judgment" from v.43.

   One thing that sticks out to me is how passionate the psalmist is about obeying God. He is also full of love for God's words, commands, and the like. He gets joy and pleasure from them, from knowing them and studying them. Learning and following the lifestyle Yahweh gives us in His Word is a way to show our love Yahweh, our God, rather than a way to earn His love.
   But a bigger theme that jumps out at me as look at the passage how sure the author is about the vindication and justice he will one day experience. He is certain that if God out of His loyalty saves him, that he will be able to face the people who are shaming him, he will be able to experience freedom, and that he will even be able to face kings without shame. Hope in Yahweh is powerful. It is not merely positive thinking, but it is the author's confidence in Yahweh to be the kind of God that Yahweh always was, is, and will be. Hope is powerful, not because we believe that circumstances will just change on their own, but because we worship and serve the God Who is faithful and loyal to His people. Yahweh will act. Our hope as Christians is based on the clearly proven fact that God does act.

    I need to really hope in God and allow that hope to empower and encourage me to endure when I'm dealing with frustrating people, people who are make my life difficult or ashamed. Hoping in the judgment of God frees me from having to take revenge.
    I need to really delight in the lifestyle God has given, not just take it on begrudgingly. What God has specified in His Word is something that I should love. I need to ask God continually for the right kind of attitude towards His Word.

    Lord, Yahweh my God, give me hope in You in the midst of trial and people who attack me. And give me right attitude and response towards Your Word, all of it! Make me enjoy the Bible more and more every day! In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Wednesday Devotional: Psalm 119.33-40 (Stanza ה)

   Pray and ask God to make you understand the passage and direct you in how to live it by the Holy Spirit in Jesus' Name.

   Abba, please open my eyes to see the wonders of Your Word. I want to know You more and live more fully for You. I want to follow Christ and do Your work by the Holy Spirit. Give me the ability to truly understand this passage and grow because of it. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Passage: Psalm 119.33-40 (Stanza ה)
33   Make me know, Yahweh, the path of Your rules,
       and I will keep it to the end.
34   Make me understand,
       and I will definitely keep Your teaching,
       and I will follow it with all my heart!
35   Make me walk on the path of Your commands,
       because I enjoy it!
36   Make my heart turn toward Your statements,
       and not toward profit gotten by evil actions
37   Make my eyes go away from seeing worthlessness
       Make me alive on Your path!
38   Make Your promise sure for Your slave,
       which results in You being feared.
39   Make my shame, which I fear, go away,
       because Your judgments are good!
40   Look at me! I long for Your requirements!
       Make me alive in Your righteousness!

   The psalmist continues with the theme of wanting to follow Yahweh's way of life, living a lifestyle shaped by what God has said, decided, and commanded. However, he also mentions again the ominous threatening presence of shame, this time admitting in v.38 that the shame he is facing is scaring him. It is more than he can handle. The shame may have to do with the profit obtained by wrongdoing, but it is unclear whether the psalmist is mentioning it as the motivator of those shaming him, or if he has struggled with giving in to that sin in the past and is perhaps now having to bear the consequences of it.
    As far as the structure of this stanza is concerned, it is interesting that every single verse opens with a direct request for action. In fact, all the first 7 verses use the same verb form, which indicates that the psalmist wants God to cause something to happen, not just do something, but to make the request a reality. That makes v.40 stick out, because it opens with a different kind of verb. Other than that, it is hard to break the stanza down into subsections, but there does appear to be some slight cohesion between the last four verses, since v.37 and v.40 both end with the same phrase which serves to bracket those verses off to themselves a bit.

   To me the big thing that jumps out at me in this passage is just how desperate and dependent the author is on God. He literally begs God to act in ever single verse, sometimes more than once a verse! He needs God to act, and I think that I need to really embrace that kind of desperation in my relationship with God at times. But is is his desperation to know God's word and then live it that only compounds this impression. Am I as desperate as the psalmist to know God's Word and live it out?
   Yet, it also strikes me that this guys is really coming to God with his struggles in view. He recognizes that he needs help to overcome the temptation to profit at the expense of others. He also needs help to continue to feel sure and confident in God's promises and stay on God's way of life. He has fears and shame that he can't handle. I feel like I need to make sure I keep going to God with everything going on in my life, that I wouldn't hold back but really spread out my problems in front of God and desperately ask Him to act.
   Lastly, I am struck by how much life itself is wrapped up in following and obey God, in knowing and clinging to God's Word. Following God is always the only way to both experience true life.

    I need to be utterly and at times desperately dependent on God.
    I need to continue to go to Yahweh with everything I'm going through, trusting Him to act.
    I need to beg God for a deeper love of His Word and a greater faithfulness in living it out.
    I need to reframe my mind to seeing life through the lens of true life, i.e. knowing and following God.

    God, You're really are my everything! I need You! I'm desperately in need, so desperate that only You can truly help! O God, give me a deeper love for Your Word and a greater ability and consistency in living for You! Make me think of life more in terms of You being my life. There is know life apart from You, despite how lifelike it may at times appear. You know what I need You to do, to make happen, so make it happen! DO IT! FOR YOUR GLORY! I can't make happen the impossibilities set before, but You CAN! So do what You've got to do, and make me faithful to do the work You've called me to do! In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wednesday Devotional: Psalm 119.25-32 (Stanza ד)

   Pray and ask God the Father to open your heart to hear His message to you as you read the Bible. But also spend some time just talking with Him about how your day went.

   Abba, have mercy on me for my weaknesses. Help me to really understand Your Word as I read and think about it today. Stir in me through Your Word a greater desire to know Christ and live a life of following the Holy Spirit in all things. In Jesus's Name, Amen.

Passage: Psalm 119.25-32 (Stanza ד)
25   My soul claws at the dust!
       I live according to Your Word!
26   I spoke in detail about my lifestyle
       and I You responded to me!
       Teach Me Your laws!
27   Make me understand the lifestyle of Your expectations
       and I will definitely think deeply about Your miracles!
28   My soul drips with sadness
       Lift me up according to Your Word!
29   Remove any false way from me!
       and be gracious me with Your instruction!
30   I choose the path of truth
       I follow Your decisions.
31   I hold on tight to Your statements, Yahweh!
       Don't shame me!
32   I passionately pursue the path of Your commands,
       because You enlarge my understanding!

    This passage continues the longest chapter in the Bible with a stanza for the fourth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, dalet (ד). In Hebrew, 5 of the 8 verses start with the same Hebrew word for "way/path/lifestyle." And v.25 and v.31 both start with the same word for "grabbing tightly." This means that there is a lot of focus on lifestyle, gripping, and because it is the only beginning that is different, on the dripping of the author's soul. As for within the stanza, it probably has two subgroups, vv.25-28 (which focuses mostly on the sorrow and dedication of the psalmist) and vv.29-32 (which focuses mainly on the psalmist's desire to obey and follow God completely).

   The main theme of this passage is about the lifestyle God wants for us and the psalmist's desire for that same lifestyle. And it makes me ask if I am really committed to God's lifestyle, if I really long to live for God and do His will. I want to be even more committed to living God's kind of lifestyle and being dedicated to Him by living out His Word.
   The other thing that really jumps out at me is the dual focus of the passage, how the psalmist is really struggling emotionally, but at the same time is still clinging tightly to God. Sometimes, it is easy to let emotional difficulties draw us away from God and from a strong commitment to Him. But I want to be more like the author who tells God honestly where he's at and clings to God even tighter when life is crazy.
    The other thing that resonates with me is that the lifestyle God commands us to follow can actually expand our understanding of the world and ability use our mind. A lot of times Christians think that following Christ and reading the Bible makes it harder for them to be or appear smart, but it is helpful to me to remember that in fact it is the Bible that expands my understanding of the world. I may be accused of narrowmindedness, but in fact, the Bible has increased my ability to understand life and the world. The Bible enables me to live a wiser and smarter life, but also to understand people and systems and even science better.

    Pursue living for God according to His way of life.
    Cling to my relationship with God all the more when life gets stressful, depressing, or frustrating.
    Allow the Bible to expand my understanding, allow it to shape my way of viewing and understanding life, people, and the world, including science, psychology, etc.

   Abba, I love You! Make me live for You just like Jesus did! Empower me by Your Holy Spirit to listen to the Holy Spirit's voice and obey His guidance. Lord, right now there are things in my life that are stressful and depressing and even frustrating. God, help me to cling to you more tightly because of those things and able to come to You with them all the time. Lord, teach me Your Word and let it shape my mind and expand my ability to understand. Don't let me be deceived by the way of falsehood that prioritizes other things or frameworks for understanding above Your message to Your people! I love You! Fill me with Your Spirit! In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wednesday Devotional: Psalm 119.17-24 (Stanza ג)

   Pray and talk to God about how your day went. Tell what was hard. Ask for what you need, but also spend some time thanking God for Who He is and what He does for you. And make sure to ask for wisdom and insight to understand and apply this passage. 
   Abba, it's hard to be focused with all that's going on today and tomorrow, but Abba I love you and thank you for what you've already helped me to accomplish today. Be glorified in me and teach me Your Word! In Jesus' Name, Amen. 

17   Treat your slave graciously, so I will live, 
        and I will obey Your Word!
18   Unblind my eyes, 
       so I will see mind-blowing things from Your instruction!
19   I'm a stranger in the land!
       Don't hide Your commands from me!
20   My life is crushed by longing
       for Your judgments all the time!
21   You reprimand arrogant people as cursed, 
       those who stray from Your commands!
22   Take shame and disrespect away from Me, 
       because I obey Your statements!
23   Moreover, powerful leaders sit--they talk with each other against me
       Your slave is studying Your laws!
24   Moreover, Your statements are my delights--
       They're my advisers! 

   The author of this psalm continues to struggle through talking with God about His problems. These 8 verses all start with the third letter of the Hebrew alphabet, gimel (ג). However, in this section we see that not only does the psalmist have this passionate desire to know God and obey His Word, but he has problems with other people in his life. He is struggling with people who are giving him a hard time, maybe in part because the author is so committed to studying and enjoying the Word of God and so intent on having a thriving relationship with God. Maybe they hate the author because he won't compromise on obeying God, or maybe they just think that following God so passionately is dumb. Either way, the author is dealing with slander and feeling socially devalued and isolated. And all this is just on top of the fact, that he is still wanting to know God, and in some case is confused why there would be so much opposition in his life to following God and living for Him, especially since that is what God wants. 
   The section basically breaks down into two themes: 1) [vv.17-20] the psalmist's longing for a stronger relationship with God through understanding and obeying the Bible; 2) [vv.21-24] the psalmist's longing for relief from the shame and disrespect he is experience from people who don't follow God. 

   I think what sticks out to me is how desperate the author is to really enjoy and understand God's Word, but also how dependent the author is on God to make that all possible. 

   I am also impressed with just how honest this author is with God. He tells him what he is going through. He tells God about the struggle to understand and see the amazing things in His Word. He is honest about how much the attacks of other people are getting to him. He may even praying that God would curse arrogant people. there is this strong contrast between people being rebellious against God, and the author who is, generally speaking, rather faithful and passionate toward God. He even asks God to get rid of the shame and disrespect, because he obeys God's instructions. But I think that is not so much the author's way of saying that he deserves God to give him relief, although perhaps that is sort of there, but that he is someone who clearly has a relationship with God. So, he is actually saying something more like, "save me from my misery, because You're my God, and I'm one of Your people!" instead of "save me from my misery, because You owe me for all the times I obeyed!"

   I'm also struck by how little has changed in the 2500 years or so since this was written. We still have problems with people. We still face people making us miserable, even for being faithful to God. And we even still struggle to understand and obey and even enjoy God's Word, but we like the psalmist want that to be different. And yet, wonderfully we still have the God Who cares and listens and answers, just like the psalmist has. And God is still someone that we can go to for hope and strength and relief from the people causing us trouble and for wisdom and understanding to know what to do and how to understand His Word.

   Be honest with God about what you're going through, no matter what it is. 
   Rely on God for understanding and enjoying His Word. 
   Obey God's Word. 

   Spend some more time praying about what you learned and felt from this passage, maybe confess some sins or tell God about what you really want and what you're really facing in life and ask for Him to intervene. 
   Abba, I love You! You're so awesome and good and righteous and just! There is NO one like You! God, I'm stress out from school and tired. I want to long passionately for Your Word, I don't just want to understand it, I want to enjoy it and I want to actually do it! Have mercy on me and make it all happen! Give me grace and protect me and uphold me as I deal with people who are making my life more difficult than I would like and with even people treating me badly. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit and make me cling even tighter to Jesus' blood as I live for Your glory, Abba! In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Wednesday Devotional: Psalm 119.9-16 (Stanza ב)

Take some time to pray that God would open your heart, mind, and life to His Word. 
Abba, reveal to us the riches of Your Word, and give us the passion to pursue You by reading it wholeheartedly today filled with the Holy Spirit! In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 119.9-16 (Stanza ב)
9    How can a young man make his path pure
      i.e. keeping [it] in line with Your Word?
10  With all my heart I pursueYou!
      Don't lead me away from Your commands!
11  I hide Your promise in my heart, 
      so that I don't sin against You!
12  You are Blessed, Yahweh!
      Teach me Your laws!
13  With my lips I tell all about 
      all the judgments of Your mouth!
14  In the path of Your pronouncements I rejoice--
      like [I rejoice] over all wealth!
15  On Your decisions I meditate!
      and I think about Your ways!
16  In Your laws I take pleasure
      I don't forget Your word!

   Psalm 119 continues with another 8 verses that all start with the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, bet, ב. This section also seems to function almost as the second part of the intro for the chapter. There are lots of different terms for God's communication to us in these verse, sometimes in laws, other times in promises, and other times in speech. The question of the passage is how we response and think about God's communication to us. Also, the concept of following after God is found here, with talk about ways and paths. Before Peter followed Jesus and left his net, the poet of this psalm was following Yahweh. Jesus is Yahweh, so following Him has always been a part of what true believers in Yahweh have done. 

   Spend some time for yourselves to read and meditate on these 8 verses. Pray through the passage and enjoy some personal time with God, and maybe think about or write down some of your own reflects on the passage before you read mine. 

   The first thing that really jumps out at me is, ironically, not the psalmists question of how he can make his life pure. As much as I can honestly say living a holy and pure life before God is hard, especially if I think about all the raging hormones that we all fight, I didn't resonate emotional with the question, although I have been talking with God lately about how hard purity is. Instead, my heart left at the words "I pursue you with all my heart!" Pursuing God with all my heart is what I long to do, it is in many ways all my life is about. I love God. I long to pursue Him, to seek Him to chase Him down and grab Him and never let Him go. I'm been pursuing Him, at this point, as long as I can remember, by His grace. But how much more I long to pursue Him with greater zeal and greater faithfulness. And since my whole life has been one of chasing Him down, I can sympathize with the psalmist who adds "Don't lead me astray." It is a place of supreme trust, following Yahweh, and we honestly recognize that He is the One Who keeps us faithful. 
   Joy in God's ways and words is one other area that really jumps out at me. I think how much this guy loves and enjoys all the things that God has say and even commanded. Sometimes, we think of commands as great burdens, especially in our culture. Yet, it is amazing that this guys sees them as a place of supreme joy, as things that make him smile, and that in a way give his life meaning. He enjoys them as much as being rich. How amazing. Many of us think about getting rich, or about how much happiness we would have if we only had more wealth. Yet, this passage reminds me that in fact, I have far greater riches and joy that satisfies as much as riches, if not more, not in physical possessions but in the communications of God to us. The more I reflect on them the more joy I have. And the truth is, that in my walk with God, walking with Him and learning His ways and His Word has always given me supreme joy. 


So, I might suggest that we pursue God and follow Him more and more, making that desire paramount. 

I also think that we should consider that we are already more deeply and freely rich than human and temporary wealth can offer. Only God can give me joy in despair, no amount of money can do that. Only God's word can comfort me and give me hope, money never can. we should start seeing ourselves as rich in God's word, and start taking deep joy in His communication to us!

Abba, You are Good, and Your Word and Ways are good! Give us great delight in learning and reading and thinking about them! O God, don't let us turn to thinking about money and being rich as the way we make ourselves feel better or feel happy, but instead turn us to You! Make us pursue You, don't make us go astray! You are Sovereign give us ultimate delight in You through reflection on Your Word! Make reading the Bible more of a joy for us than blowing a bunch of money at the mall! We love You in Jesus' Name, Amen. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Dealing with People: Issues: When You're Sinned Against (Matt. 18.15-35; 1 Cor. 6.1-11)

Scripture: Matthew 18.15-35; 1 Cor. 6.1-11
Translation: Matt. 18.15If your brother or sister sins against you, go confront him—between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you’ve gained your brother back. 16But if he won’t listen, take one or two people with you again, so that on the basis of two or three witnesses every statement can be established. 17And if he ignores them, tell the church. And if he even ignores the church, [he had better be to you] treat him just like the gentile and the tax collector. 18Amen, I say to you, “whatever you restrain on the earth will be truly restrained in/by heaven. And whatever you release on earth will be released in heaven. 19Again, I say to you that if two of you agree on earth about every matter which you ask, it will happen for you from My Father, Who is in Heaven, 20because where two or three gather together in My Name, there I am in the middle of them!
21Then Peter went up and said to Him, “Lord, how many times will my brother sin against me and I will forgive him? Up to seven times? 22Jesus was saying to him, “I’m not telling you up to seven times, but rather up to 77 times. 23By this the kingdom of the heavens is like a human king, who wanted to settle accounts with his slaves. 24But when he began to settle accounts, a person who owed zillions of dollars was brought to him. 25But when he didn’t have enough to repay, the master commanded him to sell both his wife and his children and all that he had in order to repay. 26So, falling down, the slave bowed down to him saying, “Be patient with me, and I will repay you everything!” 27And because he felt compassion, the master of that slave completely released him and forgave the loan for him.
28And going out that slave found one of his fellow slaves, who owed him a hundred days pay (~$13,700), and grabbing him he was strangling him saying, “Pay back whatever you owe!” 29Then, falling down, his fellow slave was urging him saying, “Be patient with me, and I will pay you back!” 30But he didn’t want to. Instead, go out, he threw him into prison until he paid back what was owed.
31Then when his fellow slaves saw the things that happened, they were very upset  and went and told their master in detail all the things that happened. 32Then, summoning him, his master was saying to him, “Wicked slave! I forgave you that whole debt, because you urged me! 33Wasn’t it also necessary that you have mercy on your fellow slave like I also had mercy on you?! 34And becoming angry his master handed him over to the torturers until he paid back all that was owed. 35In the same way also My Heavenly Father will do to you, if each one of you forgive his brother from your hearts!
1 Cor.6.1Do any of you who has something against the other person dare to be judged before unjust people and not before holy people? 2Or don’t you know that the holy people will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, you are unworthy of insignificant law-courts? 3Don’t you know that we will judge angels, but indeed not the things of everyday life? 4So if you might have everyday law-courts, these people being disdained by the church, do you appoint them? 5I’m telling you for shame. In this way is there not any wise person among you, who is able to discerningly judge between his brother? 6Instead, brother with brother is judged—and this before unbelievers! 7It is already a total loss for you that you have lawsuits with yourselves! Why not instead be treated unjustly? Why not rather be cheated? 8Instead you act unjustly and cheat—and this you do to brothers! 9Or don’t you know that unjust people will not inherit the kingdom of God? Don’t be deceived! Neither sexual sinners nor idolaters nor adulterers nor passive-homosexual-partners nor active-homosexual partners 10nor thieves nor greedy people! Not dunks, not verbally abusive people, not muggers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And some of you were these things. But you were washed, but you were made holy, but you were made righteous by the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God!
1.      Structure
a.       Matthew 18.15-35
                                                              i.      Confrontation and Church Discipline (18.15-20)
                                                            ii.      Are there limits to forgiveness (18.21-35)
1.      Intro:
a.       Question asked: How much do I have to forgive (18.21)
b.      Answer summarized: Infinitely  (18.22)
2.      Parable
a.       King forgives a horribly indebted slave (18.23-27)
b.      The person forgiven zillions refuses to forgive a fellow slave thousands (18.28-30)
c.       King judges the unforgiving slave by removing His forgiveness (18.31-35)
b.      1 Corinthians 6.1-11
                                                              i.      Problem: Christians suing each other
                                                            ii.      Alternative Thinking and Options Outlined
1.      Christians will judge the world, why can’t they judge each other
2.      Christians will judge angels, why can’t they judge each other
3.      Why do you want an ungodly, disreputable judge, not Christians?
                                                          iii.      Transition: don’t you have a Christian who can judge
                                                          iv.      Rebuke:
1.      You sue each other
2.      It is better to be maltreated and cheated than to sue each other
3.      Moreover, you are the ones doing the maltreating and cheating!
4.      Don’t you remember evil people won’t be rewarded
5.      Don’t you remember what you saved from
2.      Themes
a.       Matthew 18.15-35
                                                              i.      Confrontation
                                                            ii.      Gradual increase of involved parties (small number to large)
                                                          iii.      Personal vs. corporate dimensions
                                                          iv.      Forgiveness
                                                            v.      Releasing
                                                          vi.      Restraining
                                                        vii.      Two or three witnesses (legality/wisdom)
                                                      viii.      Judgment
                                                          ix.      Church
                                                            x.      Debts/sins
                                                          xi.      Repayment
b.      1 Corinthians 6.1-11
                                                              i.      Lawsuits
                                                            ii.      Court
                                                          iii.      Judges
                                                          iv.      Judgment
                                                            v.      Future destiny
                                                          vi.      Sins/sinners classes
                                                        vii.      Redemption
3.      Doctrines
a.       Church discipline is important
b.      Resolving personal issues should stay personal if possible
c.       The responsibility is not just to have your personal issue dealt with but to clean out the church body of cancerous sin
d.      Official judgments and forgiveness by believers on earth are ratified in heaven
e.       Christians shouldn’t sue Christians
f.       Forgiveness should be generously given and applied, to infinite degrees and times
g.      God hears and answers prayers

1.      Outline
a.       When You Are Sinned Against Use This Reconciliation/Confrontation Process
                                                              i.      Step 1: Confront them One-on-One
1.      If it succeeds, great! You’ve got your brother or sister back as a healthy member of the family, you’re relationship is restored (although some things will take more time to heal from, there doesn’t need to be unresolved issues between you)
2.      If it fails, proceed to Step 2
                                                            ii.      Step 2: Confront them with 1-2 other healthy Christians
1.      General Advice
a.       While the Bible doesn’t require the other witnesses and people helping to settle the conflict and issue be mature Christians, that is the wise course of action. Immature Christians are not likely to give you the best advice or be the most reconciling presence. That said, perfect Christians don’t exist, so it might be wise to pray about who to ask to go with you and see who the Holy Spirit lays on your heart
b.      practically speaking people you know the sinner(s) will respect and trust to be impartial and loving and humble would be best. You probably don’t want to bring that guy who just stole his girlfriend or you gets on her nerves all the time. you want it to feel like a group of people who care about them coming together to help them sort out the issue, not a bunch of people ganging up on some poor hapless victim
2.      Theological Reasoning
a.       Matters of law, in the OT, always required two-three witnesses that agreed for a conviction. Jesus draws on this principle for the purpose of helping to have a clear picture of what was said and done. moreover, this is a set up for the next steps, which will move from the personal to the corporate level, those steps require honest and clear testimony of more than just one persons so it doesn’t turn into a version he-said-she-said.
b.      Practically this step is necessary to protect both the accused and the accuser from being ganged up on by the church or having a miscarriage of justice
3.      if it succeeds, great! Reconciliation is taking place and the brother or sister or group can be at peace and purpose with you and the rest of the community
4.      If it fails, proceed to Step 3
                                                          iii.      Step 3: Tell the Church
1.      Explanation:
a.       Many times in church discipline, telling the church is considered the final step, just prior to excommunication, i.e. banishment from the church. However, it seems to me that this is actually a step for corporate confrontation and appeal for the brother or sister or group of fellow believers to reconcile, confess their sin, repent and be forgiven
b.      I am not sure exactly how this should look, Jesus doesn’t give a lot of detail here. It is possible Jesus means tell the church, and make it open season for the church to try to confront and convince the rebellious believers to admit their sin and repent.
c.       however, it might also mean this is part of the service, and it is something of a corporate plea to repentance (i.e. the pastors say, so and so has committed this sin, here are the witnesses testimony, what do you say, congregation answers “please turn from your sin and be restored and forgiven”; however, Jesus could mean for this to become a public trial, where the church votes to convict or acquit)
d.      the point is however, the church as whole needs an opportunity to appeal and adjudicate, and the person needs one final chance to repent and be restored
2.      if it succeeds, great! You’ve got your brother or sister back!
3.      If it fails, proceed to Step 4
                                                          iv.      Step 4: Excommunication/Banishment from the Church, Stripping the Person of their Public Status as a Christian
1.      Historically this has meant forbidding them to participate in communion. However, it has also meant banishment from being at corporate functions and intension ostracism by the whole believing community. It is the corporate equivalent not just of a time out, but of derecognition as a Christian
2.      Jesus is telling us to stop treating them like a Christian and start treating them like someone who is under God’s judgment and needs to be saved
3.      It means publically saying, “you’re not part of our family anymore”
4.      This corporate act is not just a human act however, vv.18-20 make it very clear that it is an act ratified, affirmed and backed by God. It is not merely a human proclamation, when it gets to that point, assuming it is of the Holy Spirit and not human politics and feuds, but one of the few times that God speaks a clear and firm word audibly in this world
a.       Jesus’ statements may also have some ramifications on prayer, but we will consider other things here
5.      Finally, it is not just about you personally getting justice, by steps 3-4, by then it is about you receiving justice and achieving reconciliation on a personal level, but it is also about the community achieving reconciliation on a corporate level and cleaning itself of a cancerous sin/sinner. Sin is NOT a private issue! For Christians our sins, when they are unresolved and unrepented, affect the entire body of Christ, which is why we must treat them so seriously
                                                            v.      Typifying the Process for outside of the church
1.      The same general process should be used for our interactions with non-Christians, only with some modification.
a.       Perhaps those confronting don’t have to be Christians
b.      Refusal to repent may sometimes mean moving on to secular corporate authorities, such as the police and law courts
c.       However, it is important to try to settle things personally, then with a small intervention, then move to corporate ways of getting justice
2.      However, Christians should generally speaking not sue each other, because we have this process in the church and much more Godly and trustworthy and wise people to settle our problems than we would find in a human court
b.      Forgive
                                                              i.      All the steps are predicated on forgiveness. If they repent, forgive them.
                                                            ii.      Peter like us wonders how many times we have to go through this process before we just don’t forgive them anymore
                                                          iii.      Jesus tell us as many times as it happens, and then tells a parable to tell us not just as many times as they sin, but no matter what they’ve done
                                                          iv.      Unforgiveness will put you in the realm of unforgiveness
                                                            v.      Remember that God forgave you when you owed much more and deserved far less, so when you are owed far less and deserve as much as the other person, you should be willing to forgive.
                                                          vi.      Judgment will come against anyone unwilling to forgive,
                                                        vii.      Forgive at every step, even after excommunication has taken place
2.      Discussion Questions
a.       How have you handled conflicts and times when someone had sinned against you in the past? did you resolve it?
b.      Does kicking someone out of the family seem loving or humble to you? whose eyes are you looking that the situation through? How could it be humble and loving?

c.       Is it easy for you to forgive? Why or why not? 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Dealing with People: Issues: When You're the Sinner

Scripture: Matthew 5.21-26
Translation: 5.21You’ve heard that it was said to the ancients: “Don’t murder!” and whoever would murder, will be deserving of judgment. 22But I’m telling you that everyone who gets angry with his brother will be deserving of judgment. and whoever would say to his brother “Raka!” will be held accountable by the Sanhedrin. And whoever would say “Idiot!” will be deserving of burning in hell. 23So, if you’re offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there before the altar and go. First reconcile with your brother, and then come offer your gift. 25Be making friends with your accuser quickly, while you’re with him on the road, so that the accuser doesn’t hand you over to the judge and the judge to the bailiff and you will get thrown in jail. 26Amen, I say to you: you’d never ever get out of there until you pay back the last penny.

1.      Drama…oh drama…
1.      Structure
a.       Application of “Don’t Murder or face judgment” to “don’t get angry and name call or face judgment” (vv.21-22) (deal with relationship problems by not causing them)
b.      Avoid Judgment for Failure by Dealing with Relationship problems before worship (vv.23-24) [deal with relationship problems before spreading them and before they get too serious]
c.       Avoid Judgment for Failure by Dealing with Relationship problems before judgment (vv.25-26) [deal with relationship problems when they’ve escalated before judgment/irreversible actions take place]
2.      Themes
a.       Anger
b.      Guilt/accountability
c.       Hell
d.      Judgment
e.       Relationships
f.       Reconciliation
g.      Worship
h.      Interpretation/application of the Law
i.        Priorities
j.        Name calling
k.      Gift
l.        Escalation vs. De-escalation
3.      Doctrines
a.       Relationships with people need to be fixed before trying to worship God

1.      Outline
a.       Deal with People by Not being the Sinner
                                                              i.      A lot of times we comfort ourselves by thinking, “oh, what I did wasn’t really that bad” but Jesus sees things differently and wants us to see them differently as well. He wants us to see that our sin really is sin, it is a horrible evil perpetrated by us
                                                            ii.      Jesus wants us to see that unrighteous anger is a sin as evil and as sinful as murder, hence if we are going to deal with people by not being the sinner, we will obviously have to not get angry and kill people, but also we will have to control our anger and even learn how not to respond in anger
1.      That will mean watching our words, name calling out of anger is like murder
a.       Cussing people out
b.      Name calling
c.       Gossiping
2.      Some things that we say will get us held accountable by people, human authority figures
3.      And really all things we say in anger in general we will be held accountable for by God
4.      Cussing people out and calling names and saying hostile things to people or about people is something that really is a sin, and it is so much a sin that indulging in it will leave us deserving of burning in hell
5.      Hatred really is a problem. Hating people is a big deal, Jesus is telling us that hating people is tantamount to killing them
                                                          iii.      Jesus wants us to avoid facing judgment, so He tell us to not do what will bring judgment on us. So why should you and I deal with people by not being the sinner? Because if we are the sinner we will face judgment, just like murders must face justice, we will have to face justice for our murderous anger and hatred
                                                          iv.      We need to deal with people by not being the sinner, by controlling our anger and giving up our hate
1.      This is going to require love for the other person
2.      And humility about what we deserve
b.      Deal with People by Reconciling Before Worship
                                                              i.      Jesus is focused on the importance of reconciling with people that we have sinned against
                                                            ii.      Reconciliation is so important to God and to Jesus and to the Holy Spirit that They have told us to get right with others before worshiping Them.
                                                          iii.      Jesus says our priority should be on reconciliation, not fulfilling religious expectations; on getting things right with people we’ve hurt before giving God worship
1.      This even makes sense, because 1 John taught us that we have to love human beings before we can love God; moreover, God wants us to deal with the people we’ve hurt first, before we deal with Him
2.      God cares about true repentance than just the mere appearance of repentance.
3.      More boldly, God doesn’t want you’re worship if you have unsettled problems with people
4.      It is so important to God that we get things right with each other, that He literally says, “if you’re in the middle of worshipping God and you realize that you and so and so are at odds because of something you did. Stop worshipping God and go deal with it!
5.      In fact, if you have my permission to get up and leave in the middle of the songs or sermon or prayer or whatever we’re doing and go get things right with someone, if you can. GO! GET OUT! GO DEAL WITH IT!
6.      See the thing is God cares about true repentance but also true worship. One of the ways we give garbage worship to God is by giving Him worship tainted by the stench of unforgiveness, unresolved problems, of sins not dealt with, of hostility between you and someone else
7.      Our worship doesn’t have to be half-hearted, per se, to be undesirable, it just has to be mixed with unrepentant sin, with sour relationships
                                                          iv.      I’m not talking about when someone else has sinned against you, that’s a different issue that we will look at next week, but when you are the one who has perpetrated the evil, who has hurt another person, who has done evil to another
                                                            v.      The truth is that worshipping God does not always have to look like a worship service, sometimes the way we worship God is by loving God enough to love others, to humble ourselves and admit our sin to the person we’ve sinned against, sometimes worshipping God needs to look like following God’s example of love and humility, to look like holding the same value on reconciliation and healthy/healed relationships that God does
1.      A value that He does in fact hold, so tightly that He gave His only Son to restore His relationship with us, a relationship we broke—such love, and such humility
2.      And of course, Jesus is saying deal with your sin against others, not that you should never worship God again. Deal with it, move on, and go back to worshipping God, what you were doing when you realized you had something to deal with
                                                          vi.      Now, if we really obey Jesus, and do what He says, that will mean we will Reconcile with others right away, and regularly, as regularly as we worship God, as often as we pray, read the Bible, serve Jesus, come to church. Even if you only tried to follow this partially and settle your issues with others before Friday and Sunday, you would be reconciling regularly, and indeed we as a community would become known for our love for others and our humility in admitting our wrongs and seeking to right them to the glory of Jesus, God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit!
                                                        vii.      And if we are reconciling regularly right away, that will mean that our problems with others will not grow to huge, they will stay small and easily fixable (generally speaking, obviously if you still someone’s boyfriend, the problem won’t be small, but if you fix it fast, the issue will deescalate—love and humility might mean breaking up)
                                                      viii.      Obviously the best course of action is to avoid sin in the first place, but when we fail to do that, we should deal with it right away
c.       Deal with People by Reconciling Before Judgment   
                                                              i.      Jesus’ next scenario is after things have escalated, or are in the middle of escalating, or have been left unresolved for a while, or perhaps just happened but what you did was so bad that the person you’ve sinned against has legal or official merit for a lawsuit or investigation or whatever. Maybe the person is taking you to court, or maybe the person is going to complain to the boss, or maybe the person is just going to tell you’re mom or your significant other, or me, or Jin, or Jisun, or Esther, or whoever. The point is things are bad. You are guilty and the consequences are about to fall on your head
                                                            ii.      Jesus is saying deal with it fast, before you have to pay for what you did, settle the problem before someone else can get involved and throw the book at you
                                                          iii.      You don’t want to face fines, prison time, getting fired or demoted, shamed or other negative things, so Jesus says deal with it right away, and if you know they are in the process of taking those kinds of actions against you, get right with them before they finish that process.
1.      If someone is suing you, settle with them out of court
2.      If someone is going to complain to the boss about you, go to that person and make it right with them before they do
3.      If someone is going to press charges against you, try to make things right with them before they do
4.      If someone is going to post what a jerk you were to facebook, go make things right before they do
                                                          iv.      This point is really just an extension of the deal with things right away point, but the difference is that there, Jesus is focusing on the importance of reconciliation as it relates to your relationship with God, but now He is focusing on avoiding escalating problems, avoid judgment.
                                                            v.      Of course, this story about avoiding the human judge is at the same time somewhat typological for settling things with people before God the Judge of All gets involved. Remember, Jesus opened by saying people will be held accountable to human authority, but they will also be held accountable to God, and unrepented evil and uncontrolled anger and virulent hatred leave someone not just open to human judgment, but to the judgement of God, namely hell. And while it is true that all true Christians will never face hell, it is also true that all true Christians live out a life of having been saved from hell and one that is free either by positive action of success or repentance in failure of the kinds things that are indicative of hell as a final destiny. You can’t be a real Christian and go to hell, but how you deal with people will be one of the ways that your true nature will be revealed
                                                          vi.      To deal with things before they get out of hand, will require great love, but since we failed in the love department to bring us to this point, it will require even greater humility to display love
                                                        vii.      Look, if it means great cost to make things right between you and others, do it. That is what love and humility both require, and you have a personal incentive in it, namely, not facing punishment and/or judgment.
2.      Discussion Questions
a.       How often do you find yourself getting angry at people?
b.      How easy is it for you to control your anger? Why?
c.       Do you see name calling and hatred as really evil? Why or why not?
d.      Have you ever been in the middle of worshiping or serving God and realized you had sinned against someone? What did you do when you realized it?
e.       What are the benefits of dealing with a relationship problem right away?
f.       How might present or ultimate judgment affect your decision on how to deal with a relationship problem?

3.      Perhaps one of the reasons worship for us or worship for you is so difficult, is because you have a lot of relationships, perhaps only just one relationship that needs reconciliation. Maybe the problem is you are not good at having healthy relationships with people that you have an unhealthy relationship with God, perhaps it is that God refuses to accept your worship while there is this issue between you and others that needs to be reconciled